Saturday, February 15, 2014

Feminism in Christianity Different Types of Feminism Throughout Culture Part 2

Psalm 146:7 “who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free”

In my last post on Feminism, I stated how Plenty of Christians and churches held anti-feminists views, declaring feminism as a whole as an attack on the godly way of life, including marriage, family etc and basically anti-male.  I also claimed to an extent the more radical forms of feminism that came about during the second wave women’s movement justified some of these arguments, but the origins of feminism was always about gaining more fair rights to women that were denied to them in the male-dominated society.  The trouble today is because of the more extremists radical feminist philosophies spewed during the past decades, many today are skeptical about feminism as a whole and many woman, including the ones who support women’s equality in society are reluctant to declare themselves feminists.  Today society only relates feminism to the radical 1970s bra-burning feminists who rejected male chivalry and the traditional roles of housewives.  

I mentioned before, that I myself have separated myself from being considered a feminist because of these stereotypical ideal of what modern feminism is about.  However, after doing more research on the history of feminism throughout the culture, I found that feminism isn’t pigeonholed as many believe.  In fact I discovered there have been different types or branches of feminist philosophies that have been declared over the decades and even centuries that I would like to take the time to describe giving a better understand of feminism as a whole.  First, there was classical feminism better known as first wave feminism that occurred between the 18th and 19th century.  Around this time were two different branches, egalitarian feminism and conservative feminism.  Egalitarian feminism was more progressive type that supported women’s independence rather than be pigeonholed as wives, mothers and homemakers and viewed men and women essentially the same in nature in which deserving of the same rights under the law.  

Egalitarian feminism had its roots from the writings of 18th century British philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft who wrote the famous book “A Vindication of the Rights of Women”.  Ms. Wollstonecraft was a free-thinker who believed women are not inferior to men should be treated equally morally and politically.  She advocated equal education for women as the key believing women’s inferiority in status was due to the lack of education.  Then there was conservative feminism, which was a more traditional and family-centered- ideology.  This type of feminism actually embraced women’s roles as wives, others, homemakers, caregivers and nurturers. It also promoted more rights for women beyond these roles by arguing that women could use their unique gifts and abilities in society for good in charity works and political affairs.  As Ms. Wollstonecraft was the root of egalitarian feminism, conservative feminism received its roots from Hannah More, an 18th century British religious writer, philanthropist and political activist and abolitionist.  Just like Ms. Wollstonecraft, Ms. More supported women have more opportunities in education.  However, she acknowledged the gender differences between the sexes.  In, fact she believed women should use their unique natural abilities beyond the household and to contribute to society especially in charity work.  During the time period, many looked upon egalitarian feminism with suspicion and skepticism while conservative feminism was more praised and embraced by many women.  

While Feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan influence the second wave feminism, other branches of feminism emerged.  There was difference feminism which was originally coined by feminist and psychologist Carol Gilligan.  This type of feminism promotes the equal status yet essential natural differences between the sexes that extend beyond biological and physiological. Ms. Gilligan promoted the view that men and women have different moral reasoning ethnically with men being more concerned with justice and rules and women more concerned with caring and relationships. Ms. Gilligan believed both these traits were equally valuable which verified in her 1982 book “A Different Voice”.  However, others like Nel Noddings who published the book “Caring” believed that the female traits were morally superior.  A similar branch is known as cultural feminism.  Like difference feminism, it affirms and embraces the differences between the sexes. This ideology also attempts to place value on the female traits that were once undervalued.  Although this term was coined in the 1970s, many claimed that 19th century journalist and feminist Margaret Fuller contributed to cultural feminism. Even women’s suffragist Jane Addams(daughter of Illinois state senator John H. Addams) supported some the cultural feminist ideologies.  Other beliefs are that traditional women’s roles as the caretaker, domestic and child care worker in the home should be considered equally valuable in society.  Former scholar and author Christina Hoff Sommers who published books “Who Stole Feminism?” and “The War Against Boys” defined two forms of feminism, equity feminism and gender feminism.  

Equity feminism is basically about advocating equal rights and protection under the law that also consists of fair employment, salaries, education etc.  However, gender feminism is more focused on eliminating gender roles and stereotypes and viewing women as victims of the male dominated society.  Ms. Sommers considers herself an equity feminist and criticizes gender feminism as she herself supports acknowledging gender differences between males and females. Other forms feminist branches are liberal feminism, an individualistic form of feminist theory that supports women having individual rights under the a law and including workplace, education, abortion rights etc  focus on the similarities between the sexes while downplay the differences.  Socialist feminism, which focuses on the oppression of women in the patriarchal society in both the public life and private life of the home as it seeks ways to end it. Separatist feminism is a more radical controversial form of idealogy that advocates women to separate from male-defined and male-dominated institutions, relationships, roles and activities as many believe that men cannot make a positive contribution to the women’s movement.  In this feminist branch there are heterosexual separatists that advocate for celibacy either for periods of time for personal growth or a permanent way of living. 

The lesbian separatists reject any form of heterosexuality altogether.  The separatists also advocate women-only communities and many may hold a misandristic stance.  Finally other branches include black feminism, also known as womanism deals with the racial and gender oppression of black women who felt excluded from the women’s movement and the black liberation movement and a more conservative feminist organization “Feminists For Life in America” that has an anti-abortion and pro-life stance.  Although, the Christian community has a history of attacking the secular feminism as enemy to the Christian faith, in the past, Christians have been involved with feminism.  Some of the early women suffragists were devoted Christians.  Plenty of them were members of the “Women’s Christian Temperance Union”, an organi-zation that was formed in the late 19th century that was concerned with social reforms that included the prohibition of alcohol, prostitution, labor, sanitation, public health and international peace. It also dealt with evangelicalism, missionary work and sup-ported women’s suffrage.  This organization still exists today. 

Around the second wave feminism, a Christian branch of feminism known as Christian feminism emerged. This had a feminist theology that dealt with gender equality morally, spiritually and in leadership.  It also held views on ordination of women, equality in marriage, reproductive rights, and the Holy Ghost was replaced with Sophia/Wisdom, a female side of God.  Katharine Bushnell, a 19th century bible scholar, doctor, author, missionary and social activist best known for her 1921 book “God’s Word To Women” also held some feminist theology.  The late Catherine Clark Kroeger, considered an evangelical feminist and author to the book “I suffer Not a Woman” was the founder the world wide organization Christians For Biblical Equality.  In the mid-1990s, the late Pope John Paul II called for an alternative brand of brand of the women’s movement known as the New Feminism.  This feminist branch was a form of difference feminism, with a more conservative stance.  It embraces the gender differences between the sexes, is family-oriented and supported women’s roles as child-bearers, wives, mothers and homemakers similar to the earlier conservative feminism of the 18th century.  

Just like the old feminism it promotes equality for women under the law and worth and value free from discrimination, violence and exploitation. Also believes women can contribute to society whether a stay-at home mom, working mom, single career woman.  Unlike the old feminism, it is promotes a pro-life, is against contraceptives and in-vitro-fertilization and doesn’t advocate women’s ordination.  Although many members of the new feminist movement are catholic, it also has includes non-catholics alike.  I’ve listened and detailed the many feminist branches within the feminist movement throughout the centuries and decades and believe it can give many people, especially a better understanding what feminism as whole was about with their different and unique perspectives each branch holds the good and the bad rather than judge and condemn it altogether bases on a the typical stereotypes.  

It also should be known that Jesus Christ was considered the first liberator of women, some may even consider the very first feminist.  In Jesus times, women were considered inferior under the law, in worth and basically property of men.  They weren’t even allowed to testify in court trials, go out in public and talk to strangers.  Jesus rejected the patriarchal male- dominated society of that time and treated women as equal status to men.  He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well and taught women the gospel including the sisters Martha and Mary at their home.  Jesus also had women as disciples who along with the male disciples followed him in his ministry.  Regarding feminism, I the only feminist philosophy I support is holding men and women as equal status under the law, equal worth value and regard in personhood.  At the same time, affirming some of the gender differences with their unique strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities.  

As Christians we should follow Christ’s example that includes acknowledging equality of men and women as the work together in the gospel, rejecting all chauvinistic attitudes to live biblically in honoring god, our lord in savior.

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